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Gender Identity and Dance


Terpsichore
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I have to congratulate the RAD for publishing a very interesting article on gender identity and ballet in the latest issue of Dance Gazette which is advertised in the following YouTube trailer:

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vIf6NHH2QKc

 

I have not yet received my copy of Dance Gazette but I have read the article, Transformers, which RAD subscribers can download from the March newsletter. The article features two dancers - one from Yorkshire and another from Northern Ireland - who are receiving treatment and who have been allowed by the RAD to train for the syllabus for their assigned genders. Even though it is more than a decade since s.14 and Sched 6 to the Gender Recognition Act 2004 were supposed to have outlawed discrimination they both suffered humiliation.

 

The article reports that the Yorkshire dancer's "inchoate trans identity led to expulsion from the first group ballet class he joined, at the age of 17; a class he presented in as James, dancing the male role." . The article continues "One day, James’ teacher called home to report a class cancellation. The following day, she rescinded the teenager’s place in class: James’ mother had made a passing reference to his struggles with gender identity and she no longer felt comfortable teaching him" The result was devastating:. ‘It absolutely crushed me,’ James recalls, quietly. But, by then, the fire had been lit. ‘I couldn’t, wouldn’t stop dancing,’ he says. Each time James moved house, with his parents and later to study and work, he would contact local dance schools, coming clean about the situation and asking if he could join a class. ‘There was rarely any response.’

 

The Northern Irish student had a similar story:

"Last year, through application to Northern Ireland’s Equality Commission, Adrianne won an out-of-court settlement from the ballet school that rejected her. She resists any hint of triumphalism. ‘It saddens me that we have such a long way to go, culturally, until young transgender people can transition without experiencing discrimination at every turn"

 

The article addressed a wider issue quoting Sean Dorsey:

"In theatre, visual arts and multimedia we’ve seen a fracturing of gender and sexual identities; but dance remains a space that excludes bodies that don’t fit strictly binarised gender stereotypes; so – and I’m singling ballet out as particularly guilty, here – we see few tall women or short men, let alone gender ambivalent or disabled bodies."

 

Quoting Dorsey again the article concludes that ballet can’t afford not to respond to changing social realities outside the academy. He notes that ballet is struggling with diminishing audiences and adds that ‘This should prompt dance institutions to ask themselves whether their work is truly relevant to the world we live in.’

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It is sad that discrimination is very much part of everyday life it would be nice to see it eradicated in our lifetime. My daughters friend is doubting her sexuality at the moment (aged 13) I have no problems with this girl but also have no idea how to support her either, other than to encourage my daughter to be a good friend. My daughter has discussed her friends dilemma with me and I have been very impressed by how open minded she is. I do think times are changing albeit slowly.

I'm not very knowledgeable about ballet or dance in general but this article reminded me of a group of dancers with learning difficulties who entered got to dance, I remember being moved to tears by the passion those dancers showed on stage it was truly humbling. I'm glad there was someone willing to teach people who do not fit the mold as they were beautiful to watch.

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Quoting Dorsey again the article concludes that ballet can’t afford not to respond to changing social realities outside the academy. He notes that ballet is struggling with diminishing audiences and adds that ‘This should prompt dance institutions to ask themselves whether their work is truly relevant to the world we live in.’

Is ballet struggling? Whenever I see ballet at the theatre it's packed, I always book up months in advance because the good seats always sell out!

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Is ballet struggling? Whenever I see ballet at the theatre it's packed, I always book up months in advance because the good seats always sell out!

 

Perhaps Sean Dorsey was talking about the USA.. According to Sally Howard who wrote the article "Dorset is a San Francisco-based female-to-male transgender dancer and choreographer."  It is however my experience that ballet is at least as popular in the USA as here.

 

That does not detract from his main point that there is no reason why anyone should  be excluded from ballet albeit that only a few people can make a career in it.

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I don't get the impression that adults who dance recreationally are excluded on the whole - in London, at least? There seems to be a wealth of repertoire workshops, classes and performance opportunities for adult dancers who have the means and time to travel.

 

With regards to dancers with disabilities, I know of Candoco and if I remember rightly, Ballet Cymru collaborated to produce a piece with disabled and able-bodied dancers working together. ENB of course run their wonderful classes for people with Parkinson's disease.

 

Becoming a professional ballet dancer is notoriously difficult, but we know that and it's not really the issue here. What would be very sad and completely unacceptable in this day and age would be to be excluded from a class because of discrimination on any basis.

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Not just ballet … transgender friend of mine had a very bad experience with the bellydancing community, had to give up after she transitioned because she simply wasn't welcome in too many places - some teachers can have very strange ideas about dance, gender and related matters.

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I don't get the impression that adults who dance recreationally are excluded on the whole - in London, at least? There seem to be a wealth of repertoire workshops, classes and performance opportunities for adult dancers who have the means and time to travel.

 

That has been my experience too. I have never been refused admission to a class in London or the North but sadly at least two students have been which is why the article was written. Of course we don't know all the circumstances of each case but there are not many grounds upon which discrimination can be justified.

 

In response to shygirlsmum remarks on the question of support for young trans-patients there are a lot of services and support groups for young people some of which are available through the National Health Service. The GP is usually the first port of call though not all doctors have experience of this issue. With luck the patient's parents will be aware of the help that is available.

 

Returning to Anna C's observation, I should add that I have also danced in public several times and attended an intensive without any objection.   The limits to my progress have been lack of natural ability, age, weight, bad co-ordination and physical weakness and no statute can do much about that.

 

Talking of statutes I notice a typo in my first post.   I referred to the Gender Reassignment Act when I meant Gender Recognition Act. Should a moderator care to correct that mistake I shall be very grateful.

Edited by terpsichore
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Not just ballet … transgender friend of mine had a very bad experience with the bellydancing community, had to give up after she transitioned because she simply wasn't welcome in too many places - some teachers can have very strange ideas about dance, gender and related matters.

That's awful, dance should be for everyone, whether they be male, female, or somewhere inbetween, that really shouldn't matter!

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  • 2 years later...

wow  , thread resuscitation or what ... 

quite a lot has changed in the two  and a bit years  since  that  article in dance gazette  , including  one of the dancers featured in that article  joining  this 'ere  community  < waves @sophie_rebecca > 

in that time  we've seen
- Sophie do her Int Foundation , 
- Chase Johnsey  leave the Trocks and get a Fixed Term contract with with ENB  and  dance female presenting roles  in a 'straight' company
- Sean Dorsey's  projects go from strength to strength 
- as well as becoming aware of Jay  

we've also  seen a number of  out  trans   people becoming regular posters on the board  and a continued  increasing profile   of  trans dancers in adult 'recreational ' ballet, with continued   support from the RAD  as well as  Open  support  from  BRB   ( Chookas to those  involved with Emotion Pictures  - and their shows tonight and saturday)  as well as  certain   faces becoming  becoming  'usual suspects ' at The Ballet Retreat ... 

we've also  seen  some  work in the contemporary dance world   the EU funded 'performing gender'  project and it;s associated  none professional  project  with Yorkshire dance  'Gender Moves '     again which certain contributors  are involved  with ... 

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